I accidentally killed a fish. It was a goldfish, and it was a long time ago. My sister gave me one of her’s to take home. It didn’t occur to her that I knew very little about fish in general. At home I placed my new friend in a glass jar filled with cold water from the sink. A few hours later, my new fish friend went belly up. My revival method didn’t work. No, I didn’t do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation; however, I did use a drinking straw. Unfortunately, that was already after the fact. What killed my fish was chlorine in the water, probably shock due to the temperature change, and perhaps my partial ignorance. Yes, with more ‘fish‘ education and less assumption on my part, the fish may still have been alive today.
Under the new business section of the meeting I came across this old information, from the Environmental Advisory Committee Meeting (EAC) Minutes, Thursday, September 8, 2011: “Peter Piersol noted that water from neighbourhood swimming pools is routinely discharged in the fall into a “soak-away” area at the back of the pool properties and asked if this practice has been addressed or approved by the Town. The Manager of Environmental Initiatives will follow up and report at the next Committee meeting.” Sounds like a serious issue. Most of us hopefully know that chemically treated swimming pools and hot tubs/whirlpools kill life inside them. It does the same when discharged into natural habitats, like creeks and ponds or even land where wildlife resides.
I don’t know what discussions took place afterwards, but I can tell you that not much happened. A few years elapsed, the same person came forward with a delegation (a well thought-out and resourceful presentation) at the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) Meeting Wednesday, June 10, 2015, a meeting I personally attended: “Swimming Pool Discharge Environmental Issues. The discharge of residential swimming pool water during maintenance can have an adverse impact on streams and creeks in Aurora. The regulation of these discharges should be addressed, as is done in many other Ontario, Canadian and US municipalities.” Many kudos for not giving up!
In the Town of Aurora, a municipality with a population of over 50,000 people, and we don’t have a swimming pool water or hot tub/whirlpool water discharge By-Law? Since we don’t have this particular By-Law how are the Town of Aurora’s municipally run pools discharged when repairs are necessary? Does the Town at least have protocols to discharge chemically treated pools? The alarming fact is that both the Aurora Family Leisure Complex (AFLC) and Stronach Aurora Recreation Complex (SARC) are surrounded by green space, local streams and creeks. I am glad that they are still green, during the summer of course.
Dumping pool water directly into a stream is not the only concern. Swimming pool and hot tub/whirlpool discharge to storm sewers is a concern as well. Those storm sewers near our homes, and not many know, are connected to the local storm ponds (man-made ponds), abundant in wildlife, which can be potentially destroyed by pool chemicals. Some storm pond waters are connected to streams. Everything is eventually connected. Remember that. However, ironically speaking, dumped pool water can deter rodents like rats and kill nesting mosquitoes which we don’t like in our neighbourhoods.
Very good solutions were brought up during the EAC meeting, one of them is that we definitely need a By-Law for pool and hot tub/whirlpool owners. Once a By-Law is passed, communicating it to pool owners is another important task; however, as emphasized in the meeting by many, the public education should start now. Swimming pool and hot tub/whirlpool water that is chemically treated kills living things in them, therefore, it is safe to assume that it will kill life outside the pool when discharged, that should be the first message to the public.
Constant running water being pumped out of the swimming pool can create unnecessary and destructive land erosion as well, and perhaps even alter water flows in the streams. Therefore, a good environmental alternative would be to connect the discharge pump to discharge the water through clean-outs in the owner’s home. Just my general suggestion. In other words, discharge the water directly to the sanitary sewer system since it will be better to push the pool water through a sewage treatment facility in the region, rather dumping to storm sewers.
For new swimming pool owners, environmental and social responsibility education starts with Zoning By-Laws and all necessary permits. Perhaps, a provision in the permits that the new swimming pools have suitable access to the sanitary sewer clean-outs in case of maintenance and when drainage is necessary. On a side note, I heard that if pools are in good working condition water should never be discharged or at least a regular discharge should be avoided. I am not a pool expert, but draining a pool before each winter for regular maintenance can be a very costly task, that’s a lot of water, we don’t even consume that much in a year in our house.
In conclusion, in my opinion everyone should be aware that chemically treated water in pools can have a detrimental impact on wildlife. The general public, swimming pool and hot tub/whirlpool owners, municipalities that run public pools, fitness centres/spas, pool designers, installers/contractors, manufacturers, and stores should be very aware of the impacts on the environment due to the chemically treated pool/tub waters. Some should have general knowledge just to keep eyes on our community and some specialized to prevent such actions. Ignorance is not allowed either. Our environment, more so some wildlife, is very fragile. Higher concentrations of chemicals can kill life instantly. Yep, I barely got a chance to name my new friend fish that night it died. Freddie?
Well enough about swimming pool water discharge. Hope those who read this got the point. I better now go and do some reading on recently dumped snow from AFLC ice rink near our Community Arboretum. Let’s just hope that it is simply just frozen ice water, and nothing special filled with chemicals.
Anna Lozyk Romeo, Editor’s Notes
Copyright 2015 Anna Lozyk Romeo / community FOCUS LivingInAurora.com